Is It Time to Monitor My Remote Team?

Apr 22, 2020 6 Min Read

Everyone is responding as best as they can to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Global leaders are enforcing stay at home orders, school leaders are sending students home and switching to online classes, and business leaders are sending their workforce home to remotely carry on their work.

This is undoubtedly a difficult time for everyone as we continue through our day with uncertainty. Trying to continue normally while worrying about the health and safety of our loved ones and ourselves is a daunting task for anyone. Other everyday difficulties have popped up as a result.

These include taking care of kids 24/7 and sharing a workspace with partners and roommates. It’s an important time for leaders to find a balance between empathy and productivity in their leadership and learn how to effectively support their teams in this time of crisis.

Read: Working in Isolation: How Leaders can Support Their Teams through the COVID-19 Crisis

Unfortunately, business leaders must also face the reality of decreased productivity as a result of all of these difficulties. It’s up to them to decide how they can keep their business afloat without pushing their team too hard. A solution to this could be a well-crafted remote monitoring policy.

A monitoring policy could include new guidelines for employees, a tool or tools and extra protection in case your business lands in hot water. Before learning about each element of a policy, you should understand the pros and cons of monitoring.

Pros and cons of employee monitoring

There are many ways your monitoring policy can help and hurt your business. You can likely cut some costs and improve your team’s workload. On the other hand, you might leave some employees scorned if they’re not kept in the loop.

Benefits of monitoring

Your company can greatly benefit from increased monitoring if implemented correctly. You can improve project scoping, decrease efficiencies and open up conversations you might not have had with employees.

  • Improve file and online security: Remote employee monitoring software can track your employee’s activity online and in your files to ensure nothing falls under the radar. Although not every employee browsing the web has malicious intent, one wrong click can put your entire company in danger. Restricting files and online access can reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and can help keep your employees on track.
  • Create opportunities for new conversations with employees: We all hope that check-ins with your team are enough to gauge their stress levels and their workload. Unfortunately, employees may not always reveal everything for a number of reasons.They could feel embarrassed, uncomfortable sharing or may even feel that some matters (like an overloaded plate) are trivial and not worth talking about with their manager.Getting objective data from monitoring tools gives managers a clear picture of their employees and can help initiate conversations about maximising productivity at home without stretching themselves too thin.
  • Balance budgets and schedules: Managers might be able to breathe easier if things like time spent and project budgets are closely tracked. Monitoring this activity helps companies make quicker decisions on workloads, budgets, bandwidth and more to ensure the company is running efficiently and each team member is realistically utilised.
  • Cut down project management time: Implementing clear guidelines and sophisticated tools can decrease the time managers spend trying to track and update team timesheets and progress updates. Imagine an advertising agency working on a campaign for a client. Using a project management tool, the agency team can create a centralised project dashboard where they outline tasks, assign responsibilities, set deadlines, and streamline their project management processes.

Read also: 5 Ways to Maximise your Productivity at Home and Work

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Drawbacks of monitoring

Many drawbacks of monitoring are a result of potential information overload and may lead to ruined relations with your team.

  • Legal issues: Your local area or country may have protections in place for employees. Familiarise yourself with local laws to ensure you’re respecting and following your employees’ rights.
  • Data overload: Micromanaging is not an effective way to lead a team. The influx of available data may result in more managers checking in on employees for the smallest things. These could be as minor as a few extra minutes spent on a project or a site the employee visited while they were taking a break.
  • Decrease in productivity: Increased monitoring could backfire if your team becomes too anxious to work or feels betrayed by your monitoring. Some team members may worry more about what their managers think of their activity than their work. Others may feel upset over the lack of trust their managers may seem to have from them.

This might interest you: Want People to be More Engaged? Stop Micromanaging

Remote monitoring policy best practices

Weighing the pros and cons is just one aspect of remote monitoring that you’ll need to learn. Understanding the time and effort needed to effectively implement a policy might also weigh in on your decision to go through with carrying out one with your own company. Take a look at these best practices below:

  • Set your goal: Get clarity on why you want to begin monitoring your team and see how that can improve your business as a whole.
  • Gather your team’s feedback: Take this as an opportunity to address your team’s initial concerns. Keep their feedback in mind as you begin fleshing out your policy and selecting your tools.
  • Select the best tools: Do your research and speak to reps from different companies to find the best tool for your team and your goals. See if there are platforms that integrate several tools you need so you can manage everything with one product.
  • Test out your policy: Choose a select group of your team from different levels of the company to test your policy on. This way, you can get real feedback on your guidelines and tools before rolling them out to the entire team. This trial period can save you time, money and stress before engaging your entire time.
  • Introduce your policy to your full team: Once you’ve worked through initial feedback from your trial run, it’s time to implement your policy with the entire company. This is the time to inform them of any required training, updated guidelines and whatever else they need to know to adjust to the new policy.
  • Adjust according to your team’s feedback: Encourage direct feedback from your team and encourage managers to gather positive and negative comments from their direct reports. Your plan likely won’t be perfect right out of the gate. What matters is how you respond and adjust to feedback.

Now that you’ve learned about different elements of a monitoring policy, it’s time to see if a policy is the best move for your team. Use the decision map to help you decide whether employee monitoring is a step in the right direction.

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Jessica Santos is a content marketing specialist who creates content for a variety of industries ranging from cybersecurity, personal finance and business operations.

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